From Topless Calendars to Pink Boots
Even in 2020, the reality is that construction is a man’s world. This year, I will have been part of that industry for 20 years. Has much changed in that time? A little, yes. A lot more has been hidden through the political correctness brigade – probably not very PC for me to say, but this is my candid view.
Does that mean people are less sexist? Not really. The subconscious biases still exist. But should you let that faze you? My approach has always remained: do a good job and the rest is irrelevant. Does that mean I have had to work harder or do more to prove my worth? Yes, without a doubt. But that is what I signed up for when I chose to be part of this very male dominated industry. In an ideal world I wouldn’t have to, but that is the reality and believe it is helpful to not be blind to it.
In days gone by, it would not be uncommon to walk into site offices for blue chip landowners and be met with the sight of a topless female calendar on the wall. The site foreman would hurriedly ask the ‘lads’ to hide it – and my response was and would still be: “Seriously, that doesn’t offend me (not to say it doesn’t others, and I can understand that), I’ve seen naked women, heck, I live in a woman’s body, if that means you are able to be more productive or makes you feel better leave it up there – don’t remove it for my benefit.”
Stop badging things in pink labels! I don’t want to wear pink site hats and site boots. For me that isn’t the solution! Look around you. How many women do you see dressed in pink all the time?.
I no longer see the calendars. Does that mean the ‘blokes’ (and they mostly are still all blokes) don’t want them or have they been forced to put that sort of stuff away in the era of ‘equality’. Probably the latter I expect. And that then only leads to a stronger subconscious bias that underlies the industry: we had to change the way we been doing things for years because these women came along – and in my view that can cause hostility and isn’t always healthy.
I recall working on a project about 15 years ago and, at the close-out party, (this was pre-2008 recession when those were the norm!), the site foreman said to me after almost 18 months working on the project with him as the lead designer: “When they said there was going to be a female architect on this site at the beginning I thought ‘oh shit, this is going to be another woman who won’t be able to handle it or know what she is doing’, but I was wrong to think that and having worked with you through to the end of the project, my views have changed on female architects.”
That, for me, is the drive for change that I want to see, changing the perception so that being a woman doesn’t come with a preconceived idea of what that may mean. A male architect seldom walks into the room and is questioned on how good he may or may not be, but as a woman you have to prove your worth before people think you may be credible. I have had to do this countless times over the years and now it has become part of me. I don’t want to be judged for being a female architect, I want to be judged for being good at what I do. As should we all.
Are there other changes that I’d like to see around being a woman in construction? Yes, stop badging things in pink labels! I don’t want to wear pink site hats and site boots. For me that isn’t the solution! Look around you. How many women do you see dressed in pink all the time? Who thought that this would encourage women into the world of construction? I would love to develop a prototype for comfortable PPE kit that takes me from site to a networking event seamlessly without having to laud around a heavy pair of boots – site boots and a floaty dress isn’t yet an accepted look (and yes that often appears to be the female uniform at these networking events!). So, if there are any investors out there that want to support the development of that in the marketplace I’d be all for it.